Senator Ted Kennedy died today after a long battle with cancer. I was fortunate to be on the floor of Madison Square Garden in the summer of 1980 when Kennedy delivered his concession speech to the Democratic National Convention. That speech was, I think, the high water mark of his career. He came very close to stealing the nomination from President Carter, but not quite close enough. Because he commanded so many delegates, the Carter camp had to give Kennedy as much time as he wanted for his concession speech and the result was something special. The entire crowd rose to their feet again and again to cheer him — something that did not happen the next night when Carter spoke. Several of us in the press gallery the night Kennedy spok agreed that if the delegates had been able to vote their enthusiasm instead of their primary and caucus commitments, Kennedy would have stolen the nomination from Carter in a landslide.
For historians of American politics, Kennedy’s speech ought to rank up there with the other great speeches by those who lost and so are less often remembered.